Do I need to feed my horse supplements?

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Many horses lead healthy lives without supplements, but for those in training or competition, supplements may be useful for several reasons. If you’re considering giving a supplement to your horse, it’s important to consider a few questions before purchase. 

Firstly, let’s consider what a supplement is.

A dietary supplement should be non-toxic, with demonstrated health benefits. Supplements usually contain one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Herb or botanical additives
  • Amino acid

They are used for one of two reasons. The first is to assist in the prevention of deficiencies. These include vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. The second is to improve performance. These include calming agents, joint and muscle supplements, and blood tonics.

Many pleasure horses thrive on a nutritionally balanced, forage-first diet, with vaccinations, dental and hoof care kept up to date. However, for those performance horses in high intensity training or competition, they may require a supplement at some point in their career.

Choosing a supplement

If you’re considering a supplement that makes any claim, the product should be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. It should also bear a National Registration Authority registration number and the state in which it’s registered.

However, before you make the decision to purchase, you should consider these questions:

  1. What does it contain? The supplement should have a list of ingredients clearly visible.
  2. Why does my horse need it? Consider what you hope to achieve and if this is realistic.
  3. How does it work? You should be aware of what the ingredients will do to your horse.
  4. Can I afford it? If price point is a factor, be mindful of which is the best product for your horse.
  5. Is it designed for horses? Any product not designed for horses is unsafe to use.
  6. Will it swab? If you compete, select a product that is safe and won’t swab. 

Author

  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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